Academic journal article Journal of Supply Chain Management

Tapping Supplier Innovation

Academic journal article Journal of Supply Chain Management

Tapping Supplier Innovation

Article excerpt


Innovativeness and the successful initiation and implementation of new product development (NPD) activities heavily influence the competitiveness of firms in today's marketplace. Ever shorter time-to-market demands and the vast technological knowledge required to develop new products causes firms to rely increasingly on cooperative efforts with suppliers during NPD (Koufteros, Rawski and Rupak 2010; Wagner 2010; Azadegan 2011; Hong, Doll, Revilla and Nahm 2011; Thomas, Fugate and Koukova 2011).

Firms can tap suppliers' innovation and product development capabilities at different stages of the NPD process. The NPD literature generally separates the NPD process into two phases. First, in the FEE ("fuzzy front end") phase of NPD the firm conducts early predevelopment work ranging from idea generation to project evaluation. This phase is characterized by nonroutine and ill-defined processes, ad hoc decisions, and high levels of dynamism, uncertainty and equivocality (Zhang and Doll 2001; Kim and Wilemon 2002; Frishammar, Floren and Wincent 2011). Second and subsequently, in the more formal and better structured NPD phase of NPD the development work is carried out with project management methods and implemented through completion and implementation (Brown and Eisenhardt 1995; Tatikonda and Rosenthal 2000; Cooper 2001).

Many scholars argue that an effective management of the FFE phase determines the success of NPD projects (e.g., Langerak, Hultink and Robben 2004; Griffiths-Hemans and Grover 2006). For example, Hauser, Tellis and Griffin (2006) observe that "there is no doubt that the 'fuzzy front end' of a PD process has a big effect on a product's ultimate success." Yet prior research mainly focuses on NPD collaboration with suppliers in the NPD phase (e.g., Koufteros, Vonderembse and layaram 2005; Parker, Zsidisin and Ragatz 2008; Hong and Hartley 2011) but neglects the role of suppliers in the FFE phase. There is a growing body of knowledge on the process of idea generation (ideation) within the FFE phase, the tools and methods that firms can apply to "defuzzy" the FFE (e.g., through creative templates), the management of creativity and incentives, or the role, composition and management of cross-functional teams in the FEE phase (e.g., Goldenberg, Mazursky and Solomon 1999; Toubia 2006; Raunier, Doll, Rawski and Hong 2008), as well as the influence of customers in this phase (e.g., Qingyu and Doll 2001; Alam 2006; Hauser et al. 2006). In contrast, the literature has largely neglected the role of suppliers in the FFE phase.

This study seeks to answer two broad questions. First, does supplier integration in FEE have positive effects on NPD outcomes? Second, if so, which factors that firms can influence do either facilitate or impede the positive impact of FFE integration of suppliers on NPD outcomes? As such, this study contributes to the literature by closing a gap in the research that will help supply chain managers to better understand if and how they should work with suppliers in the FFE phase to better take advantage of suppliers' knowledge and capabilities in NPD.

The remainder of this article proceeds as follows: The next section provides a concise review of the literature on supplier integration in NPD and the FEE phase. Afterward, we develop a set of direct and moderating hypotheses. We then describe the questionnaire development and data collection procedure and introduce the measures used in the survey. Next, the results are presented and discussed. Finally, we conclude by describing the limitations of the study and an outlook for future research.


Supplier Integration in New Product Development

Supplier integration (also called supplier involvement) in NPD is the collaboration of a focal firm with a supplier in the NPD process. Such collaborations between buyers and suppliers in the NPD process are characterized by a long-term and partnership-like relationship between the firms, high levels of trust and commitment and openness of communication (e. …

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